Over the years I have been asked how it is that a bugger like me, who grew up in the middle of Africa would ever contemplate cruising oceans? My answer is simply that the wide open spaces of an ocean, the peace, mixed in with the thrill of danger conjure up memories of the African bush in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), my true love.
The next question I almost always get asked is why do I want to do this in such a small boat i.e. the Flicka 20.
The answer to that is two-fold: Firstly I was inspired by Shane Acton who sailed around the world in an 18 footer (a ‘Caprice’ Robert Tucker design) called Shrimpy and whose book I read and re-read many times during my college years. Secondly, I thank Bruce Bingham for designing one of the best pocket-cruisers in the world, the Flicka.
Shane and Iris: World Beaters of the 1970s
(Taken from Cambridge News March2014 http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/shane-iris-world-beaters-1970s/story-22498258-detail/story.html#Vhj0D0X5yKCsuYJK.99)
It was one of Cambridge’s most extraordinary adventure stories, and it happened four decades ago. Shane Acton, former Cambridge Grammar School boy and ex-Royal Marine, and Swiss-born Iris Derungs, his girlfriend, made global news by taking on the challenge of sailing around the world in the smallest boat ever, an 18-foot long wooden yacht called Super Shrimp.
Shane had set off by himself in 1972, and Iris joined him in 1974 after he had crossed the Atlantic alone. They met in Panama, where Iris had gone to meet some friends. Shane’s tiny boat, nicknamed Shrimpy, was moored at one of the St Blas islets, and Iris heard about him from talking to other sailors there.
In 1981, a year after they completed the round-the-world journey together, Shane wrote a book about their time together, and Iris said in it: “Shane was already known to me as a mysterious and heroic figure through the gossip of other ‘yachties’ in the port. Curious by nature, I wanted to meet this person. That he was contented with the life he was living was obvious because his whole being exuded peace – so as well as ‘yes’ to Shrimpy, it was also ‘yes’ to Shane.”
On their voyage, the pair found buried treasure, and encountered wild storms, sharks, and even shipwreck, but survived to return to Cambridge in 1980, and a heroes’ welcome.
Prince Philip, Admiral of the Fleet, sent a message of personal congratulations, and a flotilla of boats gathered on the River Cam to escort Shrimpy to a civic reception hosted by the mayor and attended by a crowd of 500.
In 1984 he set off for another voyage and this is written up in his book Shrimpy Sails Again
During his second voyage and purely by accident I had the pleasure of meeting him in the Virgin Islands (hence meeting both of my sailing heroes, Bruce and Shane).
Sadly, Shane died in 2002 from lung cancer at the age of 55.
There are many wonderful adventures in the book but what struck me the most was that “simple” does make sense when cruising. The less you have to break the better. This is something I definitely noticed during my early sailing days and supports my desire for a small simple pocket cruiser.
Even though it has been some 30 years since I read the book, parts still amaze and make me chuckle. Shane’s attitude and sheer audacity to be a part of nature – to circumnavigate the globe is still to this day inspiring for me. Below are some of my favourite tidbits:
- Shane had very little money after having paid 400 pounds for Shrimpy but survived by selling cigarettes to islanders and telling his story to tourists for tips. Even without money he still went cruising…….
- He had no liferaft, single sideband radio, GPS or an EPIRB. I think somewhere along the way he was given a rubber duckie to paddle around in.
- He loved to sleep all night, so even when thousands of miles offshore he would lower his sails, raise his lantern and go below for a good nights rest content to let the current bob him along.
- To prepare his meals he pressed a cake tin between his legs which housed his simple paraffin stove.
- He improvised using a string and weight tied to a pencil as a sextant (until he was given an old plastic sextant somewhere in the Caribbean) and a mickey mouse watch to navigate. Rolex did finally give him a watch once Shane had developed a bit of a reputation.
- He loved baking his bread offshore content to let the sun heat his cake tin i.e. a natural oven.
- His 18 footer was a light plywood twin keel boat with shallow-draft so his bottom jobs were basically pulling his boat close to a beach, letting the tide go out (even if only a couple of feet) and scrubbing the bottom.
There are many more tidbits that will amuse one in reading the book. Unfortunately, this has been out of production for a long time but I have seen several for sale on the web ranging in price from $20 to $200.
Name of yacht: Super Shrimp. Registered: London 358661. Design: Sloop, Caprice, Lk 1. Sail no: C159. Designer: Robert Tucker. Builder: C.E. Clark (at Cowes 1962). Reg tonnage: 2.10. length: 18 feet 4 inches. Breadth: 6 feet 2 inches. Draught: 1 foot 8 inches. Construction: Plywood. Ballast: 250 lb in each keel. Sails: 1 main, 1 jib, 1 Genoa, 1 running sail. Provisions: 120 man-days. Emergency equipment: Flares (red, orange, white) plastic 2-man dinghy and paddles.
The voyage in figures:
Length of voyage: 30,000 miles approx. Duration: 8 years. Cost of navigational gear, etc 50 pounds; Amount of previous sailing knowledge: Nil. Funds available for voyage: 30 puunds. Legs: The Atlantic (Canaries-Barbados) 40 days; the Pacific (Galapagos-Marquesas_ 45 days; the Indian Ocean (Malaysia-Ski Lanka) 10 days; the Indian Ocean (India-French Somaliland) 28 days. Pleasure gained: Incalculable.
Compass: 1 Davies plastic, 1 exarmy prismatic (hand bearing). Radio: Vega Sebna receiver 8-band (Russian), Watch: Rolex Submariner, Sextant: Ebbco plastic. charts: Various (continually swapped with yachts heading in the opposite direction), Books and tables: Nautical Almanic (new one every 2nd year) Borton’s tables. Little Ship Celestrial Navigation, Rantzen. Highly recommended. Reed’s Almanac (1972 and 1980 only) Extras: 2 pencils, 1 parallel ruler. And that’s all!